Sunday, May 05, 2013

It’s Going To Be His Way

Khil Raj Regmi, the chairman of the Interim Election Council, looks and sounds like someone who is madly in love with his first job. Ever since taking on the second one in March, the chief justice – at least to Maila Baje – has seemed remarkably ill at ease off the bench.
Yet there comes a time when one must perforce feel comfortable where one is. That time has come for Regmi. One way he is showing it is by answering the antics in the political establishment.
Seeking to quell the criticism swirling since his appointment as head of government, Regmi chose not to take on the specifics, like, say, the failure to set the election dates. Instead, the other day, he reminded us how he was minding his own business when Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal sprang up his name as the next premier.
As the proposal gained traction, Regmi told an audience last week, he twice declined the offer during meetings with political leaders. He subsequently relented, Regmi said, in deference to the international community’s repeated requests. (Which goes on to show how a lot depends on who’s asking.)
Now that he is here, Regmi insisted that he would not resign as chief justice, not even on the hallowed grounds of separation of powers. The current situation, he implied, was abnormal enough to nullify such constitutional niceties. Although Regmi did not say so, keeping both offices was probably the principal condition he laid out before our foreign friends.
Regmi’s revelation of an external role in his elevation is not as startling as it might sound. How parties and politicians that had consistently opposed his candidacy caved virtually overnight said all that needed to be said. In any event, the post-April 2006 enterprise largely has been foreign driven. It’s the resources and reputation of foreign forces that is on the line. So far, they have been guided by what they know they don’t want to happen in Nepal. Until they can figure out what it is that they do want – or, perhaps more importantly, what is most viably possible within the specific geostrategic context – they have to keep up the narrative of normalcy.
Yet many of these same flimsy parties and politicians tried to portray their turnaround as being rooted in some kind of indigenous altruism. And that, they perhaps thought, would let them drive the new government’s agenda – or at least keep up the appearance to their followers and flunkies.
Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development Vidyadhar Mallik’s assertion last week must have come as a blow to the political class. Mallik described the High Level Political Committee as merely an advisory body, which the government would listen to but was not obliged to follow. (Could it be merely accidental that some leaders have now started demanding Regmi’s resignation as head of government?)
There can be little doubt that Mallik was expressing the sentiments of his boss. Days later, Regmi himself broadened that message by urging the political parties to move ahead by learning from their past mistakes.
So this much is clear: if Regmi succeeds or fails, he feels it will have to be on his own account. He will not let the parties, which failed spectacularly when they were directly in charge, to pull the strings from behind in any direction.
In this phase of our Age of Perpetual Experimentation, Chief Justice and Prime Minister Regmi is going to do things his way – whatever way that is.